Continuing the corridor vision
By Ron Henry
In 2017, our thought piece Connecting Cambridge to Oxford set out the development and infrastructure visualisation required to create the much-needed corridor between the East and West of England.
Two years on, there is still no question that the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Growth Area offers a huge opportunity for the UK, now and for many generations to come. However, the same consistent question remains and that is one of governance and how this new growth area opportunity will be driven forward in practice.
With proposals for new housing, employment and infrastructure planned in an area that has already been hugely successful, the future economic benefits are immense. Whilst figures for the Gross Value Added vary, the latest estimate is in the order of £400 billion, coupled with the target of one million new homes indicates the vast scale of the opportunity.
Building on the strong education and research foundations at Cambridge and Oxford, as well as Bedford, Buckingham and Milton Keynes, the opportunity to create and attract even more world-class businesses to generate growth is clear.
Developers will have a critical role in creating new places where we are going to work and live, in addition to enhancing life around our existing communities. Following Government announcements and dedicated work by the National Infrastructure Commission, there is now a great deal of enthusiasm across the industry in respect of what the growth area opportunities offer, we now need to capitalise on this momentum and ensure there is confidence for the market, investors and stakeholders.
A clear, collective plan will be the vital enabler, including: spatial planning, infrastructure delivery, phasing, development types, placemaking, governance and funding. It will need a truly collaborative approach between the public and private sectors, with developers working with local authorities to see this vision delivered in reality.
Coherent infrastructure delivery within the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Growth Area will also be critical to success. Clarity on timelines for delivery of infrastructure and how it will be funded are required, this will provide confidence within the industry and allow for long-term planning to be carried out efficiently.
Whilst we are familiar with plans to the strategic rail and road proposal (known as the East – West Rail and Expressway respectively) there is much more consideration required for a holistic infrastructure approach across the area.
Some of the key infrastructure areas include: understanding movement corridors, origin/destination patterns, enabling local movements, linkage to the strategic rail and infrastructure, detail of ‘Last Mile connections’, public transport, pedestrian and cycle facilities, ‘blue and green infrastructure’ (e.g. water and landscape), community infrastructure, utilities and digital infrastructure. Where appropriate, we need to understand how this infrastructure interacts, communicates and operates to meet our needs – hence holistic infrastructure. The proposals for a Digital Twin can help realise this need.
We also need to consider how we will use our infrastructure in the future and in doing so need to understand not only future technologies (e.g. fuel types, modes of travel, travel trends, etc) but also how we will work and live, hence behaviour change is key, having a flexible system that can respond to and embrace innovation and positive disruptions.
From our extensive experience across this growth area over the decades, we are well positioned to help in realising the delivery of new communities, enhancing existing communities and future employment. Our Places First initiative aligns perfectly with this, in forming the right philosophy and approach to development.